Monday, May 21, 2001

Local Digest

Ohio's use tax plea being largely ignored

        CLEVELAND — Less than 1 percent of Ohio taxpayers have claimed the state's new “use tax” on items they bought online or out-of-state, but the state won't be going after those who didn't pay.

        “We're not out there beating the bushes to find people right now,” said Gary Gudmundson, spokesman for the Department of Taxation. “But now, people have seen it once. They know it's there. We do expect better compliance next year.”

        Ohio has processed nearly 70 percent of the 5.4 million returns filed this year. Only 26,520 people have paid the use tax, according to the department.

        The state has collected $740,270 so far. The average use tax paid was $27.93.

        Ohio tax officials estimate they are missing out on $211 million a year from unpaid use taxes. They were hoping to collect $1.8 million this year.

        This is the first year Ohio has required filers to claim items that are usually bought through catalogs, over the Internet or out of state.

        Taxpayers are to document untaxed purchases and calculate sales tax they should have paid based on where they live.

Janitor wins $8.5M in Kroger accident

               COLUMBUS — A jury has awarded $8.5 million to a janitor whose left hand was torn off while he cleaned a conveyor belt at a Kroger bakery.

        The judgment for Richard Myers, 36, of suburban Gahanna, is the fourth-largest awarded by a Franklin County Common Pleas Court jury in a civil case.

        The jury returned its verdict Friday after deliberating for five hours over two days. Mr. Myers, a Kroger employee for nine years, was told by a supervisor on Jan. 23, 1999, to clean a conveyor belt at the bakery, according to testimony. The supervisor assured Mr. Myers that the machinery had been turned off, said Mark Defossez, an attorney for Mr. Myers.

        The belt was not moving. But two steel rollers beneath the belt were on, Mr. Defossez said. When Mr. Myers reached underneath the belt, his left hand became snagged in the rollers. The machinery ripped off his hand, wrist and 2 inches of his forearm.

        The judgment consisted of $4.5 million in compensatory damages and $4 million in punitive damages.

        Mr. Defossez said attorneys for the company indicated they will appeal.

Woman cited after hitting police cruiser

               WHITEWATER TOWNSHIP — A Bridgetown woman was cited for failure to yield after entering Ohio 128 and colliding with an Indiana State Police cruiser, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department said Sunday.

        Melva Davis, 73, of the 5500 block of Westwood Northern Boulevard, was among three people taken to hospitals following the crash at 6:22 p.m. Saturday at U.S. 50 and Ohio 128, police said.

        Ms. Davis struck the vehicle of Trooper Thomas Baxter, 36, of the Versailles post, who was not injured, police said.

        Her 1991 Buick then struck a 1987 Ford van stopped at the intersection. Ms. Davis and her daughter, Janalyn Weikel, 52, of Bridgetown, were taken to Good Samaritan Hospital.

        A passenger in the van, Patrica Backscheider, 68, was transported to Franciscan Hospital-Western Hills Campus.

        All people involved were wearing seat belts, police said.

Westwood man held in stabbing incident

               A Westwood man was charged with felonious assault after a man was stabbed in the neck early Sunday in a Westwood laundry parking lot, Cincinnati District 3 police said.

        Henry Caston, 23, of the 2200 block of Westwood Northern Boulevard, was arrested at 2:04 a.m., a half-hour after Jamal Johnson suffered a cut that severed the carotid artery in his neck, police said.

        Mr. Johnson underwent surgery at University Hospital and was listed Sunday in critical condition, a hospital spokesman said.

        Police said witnesses pointed in the direction Mr. Caston fled, and he was tracked down by a police dog, returned to the scene and identified by witnesses as the assailant.

Online access opens for building permits

               People can check the status of active building permits online with the Hamilton County Department of Building Inspections.

        By entering the permit number or the building's address, citizens can see the general project description, the list of approved project items and examine inspection records.

        Applicants can check the status of their permit applications.

        “This is the first step toward putting the entire permitting process on the Internet,” said Building Commissioner Tonia Edwards.

Weekend fires kill two college students

               Students from John Carroll University and Ohio University, both of whom were nearing graduation, died in off-campus house fires over the weekend.

        Michael Mansmann, 23, a communications major from Eighty Four, Pa., died in a fire that started early Saturday in a couch in a Cleveland Heights house, the Cuyahoga County coroner's office said.

        Mr. Mansmann was scheduled to graduate from John Carroll on Sunday.

        Four other people in the house and a firefighter were injured, said Kevin Mohr, assistant fire chief in the Cleveland suburb.

        After a party at the house Friday night, one of the residents noticed a couch on fire about 6 a.m. Saturday and ran up a stairway to alert others, but fire and smoke trapped the residents on the second and third floors, Mr. Mohr said. Investigators aren't sure what caused the fire.

        In Athens, Ohio University senior Jamie Dutko, 22, an engineering major from Strongsville, died in a fire early Saturday. She was to graduate in about three weeks.

        Travis Frymoyer, 21, of Centerville, was in critical condition Sunday in the burn unit at Ohio State University Medical Center.

        The fire began in Ms. Dutko's bedroom and was reported about 6:30 a.m. Saturday. It has been ruled accidental, but a cause has not been determined, Athens Fire Chief Bob Troxel said.

Black festival goes smoothly at Ohio St.

               COLUMBUS — Authorities had few difficulties dealing with crowds this weekend at Ohio State's African-American Heritage Festival as fewer people were arrested than during a typical football weekend.

        “Absolutely, it's been a remarkably successful weekend,” said Sgt. Earl Smith of the campus police.

        Sgt. Smith said 227 citations had been issued and 111 people had been arrested on a variety of charges at the festival from Friday night to 5 a.m. Sunday.

        Most of the arrests occurred late Saturday and early Sunday.

        As many as 40,000 people have attended the event in the past. Many of them take part in a parade of cars that at times stretches for miles down High Street from the campus to downtown.

        Hundreds of uniformed officers in cars and on bicycles, motorcycles and horseback patrolled the campus area.

        The weeklong festival concluded Sunday with a church service and a cookout. It started as a block party 23 years ago.

        Organizers placed more of an emphasis than in the past on African-American heritage, with presentations on African storytelling and the history of black sororities and fraternities.


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Numbers on family, non-family households
Hyde Park slaying puzzles neighbors
Flooding possible with rain forecast
Program aims to reduce riverside risk
BRONSON: The island America forgot
RADEL: Downtown volunteers disband
Teacher's heart transplant inspires Hughes
Penalty proposed for race profiling
WILKINSON: Maneuvers puzzle Heimlich observers
Butler Co. commission will impose higher tax
County law enforcers honored
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